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Wayback Wednesday: Sister Act (1992)

Bless us O’Lord for Whoopi Goldberg.

In my review for How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) – check it out, here – I wrote about how we as a society need to make getting the incomparable Whoopi Goldberg more starring roles in mainstream comedy movies our number one priority. It’s been far too long since she’s graced the big screen in a movie that has audiences in stitches. Her charisma and comedic talent are unparalleled, leaving audiences laughing every time. Case in point, I saw Sister Act (1992) for the first time only a couple years ago and since then have watched it at least several more times. I swear, each time I laugh harder than the last. That’s the power of Whoopi Goldberg! All it takes is her being onscreen doing the most mundane of tasks yet dressed in the ridiculousness of a nun’s habit for me to to giggle uncontrollably.

Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Sister Act follows Doloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer on the run after she witnesses her mob boss boyfriend commit murder. Hiding undercover as a nun in a convent, Doloris soon turns the drab choir into a musical sensation. However, her sudden fame puts her identity and safety in jeopardy.

Screenwriter Paul Rudnick also wrote the screenplay for the movies Addams Family Values (1993), In & Out (1997) and Jeffrey (1995) as well as the play it’s based on. Check out my review for that movie, here. Damn. If there’s one thing Rudnick knows how to do, it’s craft excellent and beloved movies that are dripping with camp and wit! Apparently his original version of the script was meant to serve as a vehicle for Bette Midler and by the time it evolved into the version starring Goldberg, Rudnick refused to have his name on it and went by the pseudonym “Joseph Howard.” Hmm, that honestly makes me wonder just how different the original version of Sister Act was. It also makes me wonder if Rudnick feels differently now that the movie has stood the test of time as a cherished movie that made a whopping $231 million against a $31 million budget. 

While I’m sure the Bette Midler version would have been just as fabulous, I’m glad that Sister Act exists as the final draft we all know and love. This movie is perfection. Watching this movie without smiling and giggling is actually impossible and I dare you to try. The sharp writing, the hilarious performances and the all-around joyous tone make every scene enjoyable and the modest 100 minute runtime FLY BY. Within the first 15 minutes you completely understand the movie’s premise and who Doloris is as a character. I was having so much fun watching this movie that I couldn’t believe it when there were only 20 mins left! Sister Act is the definition of short and sweet. And yet, it’s one of those movies whose charm is so intoxicating that you wish there were 10 more minutes, one more montage or one more musical number. In fact, the only thing I’d change about this movie is adding a few more musical numbers. Hey, I guess that’s why it was adapted into a Broadway musical.

It’s no wonder movies like Sister Act and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) became stage musicals. Wacky comedies about memorably silly protagonists in outrageous disguises certainly lend themselves to the theatre world, don’t they? The writing is brilliant simply because of the names Doloris Van Cartier and Sister Mary Clarence alone.That right there is enough to get me laughing. I love that Sister Act always prioritizes comedy. Eddie the lieutenant could have easily been written as a love interest for Deloris but thankfully, the focus is instead on these fabulous women and the wildly enjoyable characters they play. There’s so much more entertainment in Deloris trying to blend in with the nuns and finding purpose in her life rather than her flirting and pining for a man. As hilarious as Sister Act is, it’s also a rare movie that has women of different walks of life discussing their passions, their interests, their differing ideologies…you get just as much substance from the quieter moments as you do the raucous comedy beats.

Which isn’t hard when you have a cast like this. Whoopi Goldberg should have an Oscar for playing Doloris / Sister Mary Clarence. Genuine question, has anyone ever had as much as raw charisma and unbridled star power as Whoopi Goldberg? Endlessly entertaining, Goldberg is so funny that even the simple acts of ad-libbing a mealtime prayer or washing a car become hilarious. It can’t be stated enough how much of a comedic force Goldberg is, making every scene she’s in a spectacle of talent and charm. Maggie Smith is primarily known as being an Oscar-winning dramatic theatre actress and Sister Act is about as far from that as you could get. But Smith is such an extraordinary woman with a genuine love for acting that it’s no surprise she took the role of Reverend Mother. Her comedic timing and delivery are fantastic and it’s wonderful to know that there isn’t a single performance of Smith’s where she isn’t reading the girls for filth. OH AND KATHY NAJIMY IS THE CUTEST MOST ADORABLE MOST DELIGHTFULLY SWEET RAY OF SUNSHINE AS SISTER MARY PATRICK. Her giggle could get a smile out of a gargoyle!

Sister Act is fucking great. This movie has everything you could ever want! A lounge act that covers girl group songs from the 1960s, stereotypical mobster henchmen, a helicopter full of nuns, glorious religious themed musical numbers and so much more! Frantic action, gut-busting comedy and heartwarming charity are on full display in Sister Act. Seeing how Doloris encourages the nuns to get outside the walls of the church and meet the people, genuinely connecting with the community and becoming a part of it instead of waiting for people to come to them is lovely to watch. If more places of worship focused on getting to know the members of the community outside of services well, who knows? Maybe then people would actually like church. Especially if there were show-stopping musical numbers performed by a kickass choir! 

If you haven’t seen Sister Act wow, I don’t know what to tell you. Your life will only grow exponentially more full of laughter and joy having seen this remarkable movie and if one divinely hilarious comedy can do that than you better go ahead and watch it, right? Bask in the love, the music and the boundless fun that is to be had with the sisters of Saint Katherine’s Convent and the iconic Doloris Van Cartier AKA Sister Mary Clarence. Is it too late to make this entire cast saints?

Are you a fan of Sister Act?

Let me know in the comments or on social media! 


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